Next Kraftwerke operates one of Europe's largest Virtual Power Plants, connecting power-producing assets from renewable sources such as biogas, wind and solar with commercial and industrial power consumers and power-storage systems.
Speaking at the Global Power & Energy Exhibition (GPEX) taking place 17-20 September in Barcelona, GPEX News spoke with Jan Aengenvoort, Chief Communications Officer, Communication & Market Research at Next Kraftwerke to find out more about their revolutionary 'Next Box' and what it means for the energy transition.
GPEX News: Next Kraftwerke is an “aggregator”, could you please explain what this means?
Jan Aengenvoort: We digitally aggregate the capacity and flexibility of smaller distributed energy resources and control them smartly. Examples are biogas plants, wind turbines, solar panels, P2G- and hydropower stations but also energy consumers. The units stay in their original ownership and we provide them with a remote-control unit, our Next Box, to connect them to our central control system to aggregate their performance. So far, we have connected about 5000 units and aggregated 4000 megawatts in our Virtual Power Plant Next Pool. We ramp the units up and down as if we were a real power plant and proactively as well as reactively sell the aggregated power at the electricity markets and feed it into the energy system to stabilise the grid. Or to put it in a nutshell: We operate a large power plant without owning any power plants. You can see an interactive simulation of a VPP here.
GPEX News: How is Next Kraftwerke driving the German and European energy transition?
Jan Aengenvoort: Energy transition means decentralisation. We contribute by keeping the more smaller energy units dancing to the beat of the system to ensure supply and demand are met at all times. This way, we help stabilise the grid and we show that renewables are competitive and provide sustainable ecological and economic benefits.
GPEX News: What would you say are the key challenges to the transition to a low carbon energy system?
Jan Aengenvoort: With the increasing share of intermittent renewable energy in the system, it is crucial to grasp the need for flexibility. We need to learn to think the system differently. Instead of just following the load, we need to define both supply and demand as flexible variables and let them be adjusted to each other. Why produce energy when prices are low because of excess wind energy? Why consume energy when prices are high because of a lack of sunshine? It makes more sense to consume when prices are low due to a surplus of wind power and to produce when prices are high because the sun is not shining. This would be a win-win situation for the producers, the consumers and the grid. Plus, it furthers the energy transition. This is why we stress the importance of flexibility and believe it is the biggest challenge and the biggest asset of the energy system of the future.
GPEX News: Where do you see your business in the next 5-10 years?
Jan Aengenvoort: We operate one of the largest Virtual Power Plants in Europe and we want to strengthen this position. We have recently developed two new tools based on our experience in the market, our VPP-as-a-service-solution NEMOCS and our trading software NEXTRA because we see the demand for our expertise on how to manage flexibility and the output from renewable sources of energy and to help with production forecasts is quite high. That is why we are looking optimistically into the future.
GPEX News: You will be speaking at the GPEX 2018 Summit this September, what do you expect the outcomes of the event to be?
Jan Aengenvoort: It is a great opportunity for us to show what we do and learn what others do to achieve the same goals. I’ll be glad to enhance my understanding of European power systems and markets and at the same time share my knowledge on flexibility in times of the Energiewende.
Chief Communication Officer, Communication & Market Research
The Global Power and Energy Exhibition, taking place in Barcelona on 17-20 September, will showcase the strategies and technologies needed to adapt to the global energy transition. Do not miss out and register now to join the global power and energy leaders.